Andrew Osagie follows in Sebastian Coe's footsteps in reaching 800 metres final

 

Lord Sebastian Coe has choreographed many aspects of London 2012 and if he can edit the script at the Olympic Stadium tomorrow night, Andrew Osagie will herald a revival in the discipline that made him famous.

It appeared that even amid Great Britain’s best medal haul for 104 years, these Games would continue to lack a genuine home contender in the middle-distance events that leave many harking back to the days when Coe and Steve Ovett battled for supremacy over 800 and 1500 metres.

Step forward 24-year-old Osagie. Great Britain’s sole representative in the 800 metres semi-final last night ran a stunning heat to finish second behind David Lekuta Rudisha of Kenya and qualify with the sixth fastest time for tonight’s final.

Reaching the final is an achievement in itself. “When you plan for almost a year for one race and you get it right, it was literally almost disbelief,” he said. “I thought I was quite tired and I didn’t know what I was going to have in the last 50 metres. Luckily my legs were there - I am so happy.

“I can’t believe I have qualified automatically. I was aiming for a fastest loser spot — I wanted to guarantee I was in the top four to give myself a chance to get through. But to come second in that race . . .  it was a class field. Words can’t describe how I feel.”

A medal would be a tall order but not an impossibility. World record holder Rudisha is the clear favourite and on a fast track he may harbour hopes of setting an even better time.

Ovett said Rudisha was even more likely to win than Usain Bolt in the 100 metres “because Bolt’s rivals have the faint hope he might false start.”

He should know. Ovett won Olympic gold over 800m at Moscow’s 1980 Games, with Coe second, although the chairman of the London Organising Committee for these Olympics won successive titles in 1980 and 1984 over 1500m. Great things are expected of Osagie but to bracket him in with such luminaries of British middle distance running would be premature.

Originally from Harlow, Osagie is a karate black belt and overcame several injury problems early in his career to emerge with real promise. He took the bronze at the World Indoor Championships in March, before finishing third in Diamond League meetings in Doha, Rome and New York — where Rudisha thrashed the field with almost embarrassing ease.

Osagie ran inside the Olympic qualifying time during the trials in Birmingham back in June and is on an upward curve.

A prominent showing would help encourage the belief that he could make an even greater impression on the global stage in the coming years but Osagie is aware the crowds in Stratford are desperate to cheer home one of their own.

“I wanted to give the crowd a bit of a boost after my heat because I was the only Brit that got through unfortunately — it was probably the toughest Olympics 800 metres there has been for a long time,” he said. “So for me to get in the final and for these Brits to get another chance to see a Team GB run in the final, I am so excited.

“I want to say thank you to everyone now in case I am a bit annoyed after the final — thank you to my family and friends who have supported me through the years, my coach especially and the physios who kept me in one piece so I can come and run in front of crowds like this.”

Perhaps somewhere in the stadium, Coe will be among those cheering a little more loudly than others.

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